squares eleven and twelve

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Ends woven in on squares eleven and twelve.

This morning, I wove in the ends on Squares Eleven and Twelve of the Mitered Crosses Blanket.

The last two squares.

And with these two squares, the knitting for the blanket is DONE!

Beautiful stack!

And now I have a beautiful stack of squares. They make me very happy.

Yay, 12 squares!

Such squishy soft garter goodness!

Squishy garter goodness.

Perfect to wear on your head, while your daughter looms over your shoulder?

Being silly with squares while M looms over my shoulder :)

Yeah, we’re weirdos :)

Yeah, we're weirdos.

I suppose the next step, before I turn them into a blanket, should be to block each of the squares. I can probably only block a couple of them at a time, given the space constraints of our house (and the naughtiness of our kitties), so it might be awhile before I actually get around to turning these into a blanket. But it’s going to be an AWESOME blanket. For now, I’ll just revel in my beautiful stack of squares…

Stack of squares.

…and in the fact that the worst February EVER is now over! Hello, March!

valentines!

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Happy (now-belated) Valentines Day, friends!

Happy Valentines Day!

We took a break from the misery that is February to celebrate love this past Saturday. Of course, we love each other and the world every single day, but the holiday was at least a good excuse to bake some cookies :)

We had a bunch of leftover gingerbread dough from our Solstice cookie-making antics (which we’d frozen in anticipation of using for this very activity!), and I was able to find a set of heart-shaped biscuit cutters (which seem to have doubled in price since I got them!):

<3

So we made gingerbread hearts. M, as always, was our sous-chef, helping to roll out the dough:

Getting ready to make Valentines cookies! (With the leftover dough from our Solstice cookies, which we had frozen.)

And cutting out heart shapes:

Little cookie cutter <3

She…struggled a bit with her listening ears during this process, and kept cutting cookies that partially overlapped with either the edge or another already-cut-out cookie, so we had some deformed hearts going on for awhile. But she got better and better at it!

Gingerbread heart-maker.

As with the Solstice cookies, we dusted our hearts with powdered sugar after they’d baked. So pretty!

Valentine's Cookies!

And of course, M delighted in sampling the product she’d helped make:

Enjoying the fruits of her labor

I hope you got to enjoy some sort of sweet treat this weekend, too!

february is a hard month.

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It's BLEAK outside today. And lake effect snow warning for tonight and tomorrow. Winter is stepping up its misery-game this week, that's for sure.

February is ALWAYS a hard month, at least here in ROC. Probably anywhere that has winter, it’s a hard month. This particular February’s been especially hard, though, between illness and snow. We’re not quite at Boston levels of craziness, snow-wise, but it’s pretty bonkers here. We usually average around ~100in/year of snow, which sounds like a lot (and it is), but the thing is, we don’t usually get it all at once, and there are usually melts between snows. Not this year, though.

Blasting some Florence + the Machine while I shovel the driveway.
Blasting Florence + the Machine, which turns out to be great shoveling music

I’ve been doing a lot of shoveling. A LOT. Like, I honest-to-goodness have covered over 10 miles of walking just clearing our driveway repeatedly over these last couple of weeks. It’s not an exaggeration – my phone tracks it! See, the problem is that in our neighborhood, the houses are very close together. So you can’t really pile snow off to the side of the driveway. It’s either got to go in front of the house, or in the backyard. This is the front of our house, as of Sunday morning:

There is nowhere left to put the snow in front (it just avalanches down those ~5ft piles), so I had to carry every shovelful to the backyard.

I’m standing far enough away that it isn’t clear, but that pile of snow? It’s the same height as me. So I can’t pile snow on it anymore. EVERYTHING has to be carried to the backyard (which is how I’ve racked up those miles – just back and forth on the driveway, carrying heavy shovels full of snow). But we’re running out of space, there, too – our backyard is basically 4ft deep piles of snow moved from the driveway at this point. I can’t even imagine what a mess that’s going to be once it starts melting.

Oh, and when I took that photo, it was -18F windchill outside. This combination of lots of snow plus extreme cold is just…unusual. And very, very hard.

Especially when combined with health problems. One of the reasons *I’ve* been doing so much shoveling, as opposed to A (which is not to say that A’s done none, just that I’ve done a lot more than my usual share) is that A has been really sick lately. He was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis during the snowstorm that struck at the very beginning of February, and then followed M last week with a nasty stomach bug (M managed to puke on Elle Melle, but I successfully washed it). Said stomach bug finally struck me after I shoveled the driveway on Sunday. (I’m still not quite over it, alas). It’s been tough. And the fact that A has joined me in the chronic autoimmune condition club definitely complicates things – I have to be careful not to overdo it, lest I push myself into flare territory…but so does he, now. (And actually, RIGHT now, he just plain needs to take it easy because he is actively IN a flare). And there’s just a lot to get used to – his medication regimen has disrupted our old bedtime routine, which has led to insomnia for me (and it’s obviously not a lot of fun for him, either!) and also costs about eleventy-billion dollars per month (we’re looking into discount programs), so this February has us feeling a bit defeated.

Things are not ALL bad, though. It’s quite beautiful outside, if you don’t actually need to be getting anywhere:

Snowy.

And fortunately, I only very rarely need to get anywhere that’s not accessible via the tunnels, when I’m on campus, though I did for the workshop I ran last Monday:

Making my "getting smacked by snow" face, walking back across campus after running a writing workshop.

And M is having a blast with the snow. She wants to bring “snowballs” into the car with her every time we’re out:

The "snowball" she wanted to bring into the car after school on Friday. #latergram

And climb snow “mountains”, and just generally frolic about in it. Alas, that’s been less possible than she’d like because of the dangerously low windchills. She also loves to “help” shovel:

Helping me clear snow before naptime.

I suppose that’s a good thing, since she’s a ROC-baby! Maybe eventually her “help” will actually be helpful :)

So, that’s what we’ve been up to. Shoveling snow. So much snow. And being sick. So much sickness. Here’s hoping that March has kinder things in store for our family. How are you all holding up this February, dear readers?

false start.

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This past Wednesday, I didn’t have any classes to teach, or students to meet, or workshops to run – so I worked at home! And, since working at home is pretty much the only time I can rummage through my stash yarn and swatch for stuff without Madrigal “helping”, that’s what I did:

Some swatching on a dreary winter day. (A grown-up Stripes! cardigan for me, with Eco Wool as the neutral).

I dug out the skeins of Knitpicks Chroma, and a giant hank of Eco Wool, and wound the Eco Wool up into a ball that was nearly the size of my own head, then swatched. While I’m not madly in love with the orange shade that happened to be first on the ball of Chroma, I am madly in love with that combination of corrugated rib and vikkel braid.

Not a fan of the orange, but as part of the rainbow of stripes, I think it's fine. Can't get over the combo of corrugated rib + Vikkel braid + stripes.

In case it isn’t completely obvious, I was swatching for a Stripes! cardigan of my very own. Having ascertained my gauge with Eco Wool + Chroma (since I suspected it might be a bit different than the 100% Chroma sweaters I’ve made for M), I was ready to go, so I did some math, cast on my stitches, and proceeded to knit on it as much as I could over the next few evenings. It was looking lovely…

Working on my Stripes! cardigan. That vikkel braid took FOREVER (but it's worth it!)

…but also looking a bit…long. I was aiming for something a little more relaxed in fit than my Stripes! pullover (because I want it to be that sort of cardigan, not a super-fitted one), but this was looking a bit beyond that. Sure enough, I counted my stitches, and I somehow had cast-on 20 extra. At 4.5sts/inch, that’s…a nontrivial amount of extra fabric. So, I’ve got to rip.

But here’s the thing. I’m actually kind of glad to have had this false start, because it gave me a bit of time to think, and I’m actually thinking that I’d prefer to knit/design the grown-up Stripes! cardigan as a top-down knit, rather than bottom-up. Here are some reasons why:

1. Fewer stitches to cast on. Ok, so this is not actually the primary reason, but hey, it makes it way more likely that I’d notice if I screwed it up, right?

2. More control over the colors that are up near my face. This IS a big reason for wanting to go top-down. While I embrace the rainbowness of the Chroma, that orange that’s in the swatch is really the LAST color I want up near my face. But if you’re knitting from the bottom-up, the color at the yoke is kind of a crap-shoot. You can’t easily guess what it’ll be. Whereas from the top-down, I can choose what part of the color repeat I want to start with at the cast-on. (In fact, I’ll probably start with the colors that I started with in the false-start bottom hem!)

3. More control over the shaping. Ok, so “more control” is not the most accurate way of putting it (you can execute the same shaping whether it’s bottom up or top-down, at least for a yoke!). But I’ve been feeling like my intuitions about fit and shaping (both as they specifically relate to my body and translate to knitwear, but also more generally, for whatever reason) have kind of evaporated since I got pregnant with M, and I think knitting from the top-down will make it easier to try on as I go, and to course-correct if the shaping/fit doesn’t seem right. This is especially important to me because making a striped yoke that fits WELL is actually not trivial, since a well-fitting yoke is going to involve some short-rows, and short-rows + stripes = wonkiness, if you’re not thoughtful about it. I’m not entirely happy with how it worked out on my Stripes! pullover, though it’s not bad. I’m actually eager to tackle that end of things FIRST instead of last, you know?

My only worry, really, is that I do aim to write this up as a pattern (once I’m solid on the fit stuff again – designing my first grown-up sweater in several years has me nervous on that front!), and it seems odd to me to have babyStripes! be bottom-up and cardiStripes! (or whatever I call it) be top-down. Not that I couldn’t rewrite babyStripes! to be top-down – it’s not like I’ve published that pattern yet. I also don’t know whether top-down designs are appealing to knitters (e.g. for the reasons I listed above) or if there are reasons why they’re less popular (e.g. the fact that knitting sleeves down from an already-knit body can kinda be a pain). I’ve kind of fallen in love with top-down with those hats and mittens I’ve been knitting lately (whose pattern will be published soon). What do y’all think, dear readers?

square number 10

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It was hidden in the background in my last post, so I thought I’d show it off in a post of its very own:

Square number 10 - just 2 more left to knit!

I love the way that blue/purple region just GLOWS – it’s incredible. This colorway of Noro is so fantastic, and it’s sad that it got discontinued. On the bright side, I found a whole bunch more of it in my stash (I “inherited” it from an acquaintance who had quite a bit of it), so I’ve definitely got enough to make the remaining two squares for the blanket, plus maybe a couple more to turn into pillows. Or I could use it for something else…who knows?

Speaking of those final two squares, I started Square Number 11 while I was in the waiting room during my husband’s medical procedure this past Monday:

Knitting in the waiting room. My hands are still kinda wibbly from all the shoveling.

It’s definitely on the more riotous side, color-wise, than Square Number 10, but they’ll both be perfectly lovely in the blanket, I’m sure.

(The medical procedure, by the way, confirmed that my husband is suffering from Ulcerative Colitis, which didn’t entirely come as a surprise, alas. Poor guy! There’s a lot for us to learn about managing his condition, getting him out of this flare as quickly as possible, getting medicine at discounted rates, and all of that…it’s kind of overwhelming. And now we both have chronic autoimmune issues, so poor M is probably doomed on that front. Sorry, kiddo! But…she’ll be living in the future by the time she’d probably have to deal with either a connective-tissue related or gut-related chronic disease, so I’m hopeful for her!)

finding my community

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I was welcomed as a new member of the UU church today, and given a flower and a book. I'm really happy being part of this community!

This morning, I was welcomed as a member of First Unitarian (and during the welcome ceremony, was given the flower and book that you see above, pictured with Square Number 10 of the Mitered Crosses Blanket). This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a very long time – since before M was born, actually. I went to a UU church for awhile as a kid, and always felt very much at home amongst UUs. Though I’ve never been a theist, I’ve always had a fascination with religion, myth, and storytelling, and what we can learn from the stories we create and tell in order to make sense of our world and our place within it, and it was in the children’s group at the UU church we attended when I was a kid that I really got to nurture that fascination.

I drifted away, though, and wasn’t brought back towards it until I was pregnant with Madrigal. When my brother and his wife lost Ayden, I was shattered and filled with a complicated mix of grief and guilt and fear…and it occurred to me that one way that most people get through dark and scary times is through the support of their church. Which I didn’t have. I remembered the UU church, and googled and found First Unitarian, but never went past that. I just wasn’t ready to open myself up to strangers – though I’ve found this particular group of strangers to be the most welcoming group I’ve ever met, so it’s really too bad that it took me so long.

I mentioned in my post about M’s third birthday that I often feel as though I died, when M was born. It sounds melodramatic, but I really did feel completely and utterly lost to myself as I entered motherhood. Disconnected (kind of literally – I did dissociate during her birth, after all) and full of hurt, both my own physical pain (4th degree tears plus no pain management beyond ice is just absurd), the terror and confusion of the birth experience itself, and the complex mix of grief and guilt I felt regarding Ayden, which fed into what became PPD and childbirth-related PTSD in a probably predictable, but still terrible way. Those next two years were horrible. My aunt was diagnosed with ALS (I took M to visit her when M was 4 months old, which is the last time I saw her – she faded quite quickly. ALS is a horrendous disease.). Then my brother and his wife lost their twins, and during all of this, my own “community” of fellow graduate students evaporated, as each of them defended their dissertations and moved on (as grad students do). My world felt like it was crumbling. I should have reached out to the UU community, but I just wasn’t there yet. I started following along on their website, listening to recorded sermons here and there, putting the services into my Google Calendar and then not actually going to them.

A big part of this, I’ve realized, is that I was still in that detached sort of state that I think many graduate students end up in. When you don’t know where you’ll be living in a few months, when the future is as precarious as it is in those final years of dissertation-writing, when you don’t know what it holds but it seems obvious that whatever it is will involve moving away from your current home (because that’s kind of baked into the deal, in academia – you normally don’t get to stay where you studied)…well, you don’t tend to invest much in putting down roots. It’s hard to want to build new connections if you’re almost certain that you’ll be torn from them. But connections are what I needed, and craved, and I did start working to build them. You just can’t survive as a family without connections. Through mama’s groups, through M’s school, I started being braver about putting myself out there. I made this place, Rochester, my home – and through both hard work and a whole lot of luck, I was able to TRULY make it our home through my job in the Writing Program. When I said, in an earlier post, that this year in my new job is the first year I felt like my life belonged to me – this is a big part of it. Just knowing that this CAN be my home, and I can build connections to the community and they aren’t guaranteed to be ripped away from me…that I can start living the life that I want. I was finally ready to actually GO.

What I was craving was a sense of belonging, of community, and this is what First Unitarian is all about. They believe that pain comes from disconnection, both from our deepest selves and from the larger community, and they work to foster connections that can heal and fulfill – and they believe that it is our duty to be open to these connections and to all of the gifts the world has to offer, to listen to ourselves and others, and serve needs greater than our own. I can get behind that. If you know anything about UU-ism, you probably know that they are about “deeds, not creeds”, and that’s why I can be comfortable there despite being a non-theist. (In fact, the lead minister, Rev. Kaaren, describes herself as a “non-theist who believes in Grace”). It’s about a way of being in the world, rather than a particular set of beliefs. This works for me, non-theistic, skeptical-by-nature, but story-loving Humanist that I am.

During those awful years of early motherhood, while I was deep in the muck of depression, fed by shame, I was very lucky to have a few good sources of support (my therapists, and a few dear friends), who helped me find myself again. Something kind of amazing can happen when you are forced to rebuild yourself. You get to be intentional about it, mindful. You get to really consider what your values are, and who it is that you WANT to be. For me, what I realized is that compassion, kindness, supportiveness, and respect were absolutely core values for me. I affirmed that “who I am” is a person who does not judge, who is open and caring, ready to meet people where they are and, if they’d like it, help them get where they’re going. I’m a helper. A teacher. It’s not like I hadn’t had a sense of this well before I even became a parent, but when I say that the me who has emerged since walking through the fires of early parenthood is a “more ME version of me than ever”, this is what I mean. And in the UU church, I’ve found a community that shares these values, where I can both give and receive these gifts of kindness, compassion, and support, where I can join hands with them in social justice efforts that benefit our local community and the broader world…and it is wonderful. And not only that – I’ve found a place where M can be nurtured and supported as she grows up, too. The R.E. programs of the UU church are pretty spectacular, and though it is still years away, I’m excited to think that M will benefit from the O.W.L. program.

Anyway, I promise I won’t babble about church constantly here (or at least, I don’t plan to!), but I just wanted to share this development, and what it means to me, and how it is a big part of those “intentions” I wrote about for this year. Thanks for listening, friends!

things i make for *ME*: Frisson!

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Finished Frisson!

Blocking worked wonders! I’m really delighted with this new shawl, my first FO of 2015. Details below:

Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Frisson
Yarn: A Piece of Vermont Yarn & Fiber Superwash Merino/Bamboo/Nylon Sock (I’ve had it in my stash for ages!)
Needles: size 4 circulars
Time to knit: about 3 weeks

Frisson turned out lovely!

I’m on a bit of a mission this year to add to my collection of handknit neck-adornment devices, and this fits the bill nicely. Purple is a color I’ve been wearing more and more of, especially since M was born, but I didn’t have any purple accessories. I do now! This purple merino/bamboo/nylon sock yarn has been sitting around in my stash for YEARS now, stubbornly refusing to turn into socks (perhaps because I’ve pretty much stopped knitting socks, eh?), and really, I think that’s all for the better, because this stuff feels really nice around my neck. Very silky! I’m not sure I’d like it as socks, frankly.

Froze my butt off taking photos, but I'm really happy about my new shawl :)

I do worry a little that given how petite I am, these long biased triangle shawls end up being a little overwhelming on me. It’s actually a bit shocking how much shawl came out of a single skein of sock yarn – I suppose the eyelet sections help with that! So I think I may focus my attentions on smaller neck-adornment devices – perhaps a cowl will be next, but whether it’s one from a pattern or one that I make up remains to be seen.

Last photo, I promise!
Cold, but happy, in my Frisson

But I do get a lot of wear out of my Icarus shawl, which is a more traditional triangle shape. I often wear it with the point in front (though I fold the top edge down to get a sort of cowl-effect with it), and I get lots of compliments on it. So perhaps another more traditional triangle shawl would be a good thing to make. If you’re a friend of mine on Ravelry, you might’ve seen me go on a bit of a shawl/cowl/scarf queueing spree over the last few days. I’m particularly excited about the 54 Rue du Chateau collection that came out this week. How gorgeous are those shawls?! I think my favorite might be Tanguy, but they’re all pretty amazing. Who knows when or if I’ll ever knit one of them, but gosh, they’re lovely.